Saturday, March 05, 2011

Kindergarten Readiness - Fine Motor Made Fun

There is a lot more to Kindergarten than learning the ABCs and 123s. Children are expected to write their name, cut paper accurately, and manipulate small objects for art projects and counting. These tasks all require fine motor skills. Learning all of these skills is a lot easier if fine motor skills are developed prior to starting Kindergarten. Parents and educators know that the best way for kids to learn is through play. They suggest providing a variety of fun learning toys so your child can use their imaginations while gaining the skills they will need later on. 

For example, blocks are a simple way to get kids building and using the small muscles in their fingers and hands. They need to grasp the blocks, stack them, steady them so they don’t fall over, and they can use their imagination as they build. Make sure to get blocks of different sizes and textures so that it keeps their interests. The variety will also stimulate the muscle groups in different ways. Make sure you get a set of 1 inch blocks. The small size is perfect for teaching kids a pincher grasp which is needed later for holding a pencil. I also like having larger unit blocks that need to be manipulated with the whole hand to strengthen the larger muscles. Keep it fun and interesting by adding add foam block, textured blocks and large cardboard blocks to your collection. The best part of blocks is that kids love them so they will be used over and over again. You will know they are building fine motor skills as they play but all they know is they are having a great time. 

Two other toys that help build hand and finger dexterity are lacing toys and puzzles. Lacing toys require children to pinch the string to successfully push it through a hole. This activity teaches a pincher grasp, increases finger dexterity, and has the added bonus of improving hand eye coordination. Likewise, puzzles also improve the same set of skills. Different types of puzzles work different parts of the hand so make sure you have a range of puzzles types for your child to explore. Peg puzzles require kids to pinch the small peg between their fingers. This skill building toy works the small muscles of the fingers and promotes a pincher grasp. Knob and chunky puzzles guide children to use a more claw-like gesture building strength in the whole hand. The claw-like action also teaches kids to coordinate all their fingers so they work together. As kids play with puzzles and lacing toys they are having fun while building the essential strength and skills they will need when they pick up a pencil or scissors later on. 

There a lot of activities that kids do every day that are paving the way for their life in school later on. Like most things, learning through experience is the best way for kids to improve their fine motor skills. Small toys are not the only tools you can provide to accomplish this. To keep things fun and interesting you can use sensory and activity tables as well. I like filling a sensory table with beans, dried corn, or bird seed and hiding small objects for kids to find. They love the feeling of searching through the material to find the hidden object. When they find it they will use their hand and fingers to grasp and manipulate what they found. The activity itself also helps develop problem solving skills as they figure out the best way to find the item; it also helps tactile discrimination skills as they learn to discriminate between different textures, shapes, and sizes. All of these skills will make learning to write and cut an easier task. When your child walks into their first kindergarten class you will be worried and excited for them no matter how much you prepare. If you give your child a lot of experience with fine motor activities you will have one less thing to worry about and your child will be more confident as they tackle this new challenge with pride.

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